Every evening these days someone different in our community hosts kirtan/simran/meditation in their home, and lots of people from the sangat come together. It’s so cozy and nice to get together with people and meditate together. This evening as I sat in someone’s home meditating and singing with everyone else, it was such a clear moment for me. For most of us we go about every day life activities, dramas, happenings in life, etc. and while going through them they seem so important. As I sat there meditating with so many beautiful people, all those "worldly" things seemed to melt away and un-important. It was another one of the those reminders that all these comings and goings are just maya and in the bigger scheme of your life are not very important. Most will go through their whole life in this way. It’s times like these that are reminders to me of what our real purpose is here on this earth, to connect with God inside our self and in others. It’s that special time that you spend to work on developing your own spiritual self and keeping that connection with God/Guru.
It has been a bit lonely the past few days as my wife Arjan and daughter charanjeet went to Vancouver, Canada for the Khalsa Ladies Camp, and Narayan went off to Georgia to visit with his Grandparents. When all the kids are here you feel like you want a break, but then when they are all gone it feels so strange and quiet. I guess I have gotten used to have my children and family close, and so when they are not there I really miss them. I guess it is just another reminder to appreciate having a beautiful family and not take this time for granted.
This morning I was meditating and reflecting over all the comments and the email that someone sent me and I thought of a few things. In terms of Sikh judging and criticizing others I started thinking about the meaning of the word "Sikh". Which is a student and learner, always open and hopefully going through the many tests of life. Somehow narrowmindedness and judgment doesn’t seem be part of the Sikh lifestyle. When you look at Guru Nanak’s message of oneness; Many paths…..one God, it just doesn’t feel right that Sikhs in general can be so closed minded and critical of each other. The basic philosophy of Sikhi is oneness (Ik Ong Kaar), and yet people to often fall into the trap of the "right and wrong" game. That is a hindu thing…that is not Sikhlike, that is this…that is that. Everyone goes on some path in life and this is different for everyone. Of course there is no one way….and no way which is the "right" way, yet people always feel like their way of thinking is the correct way. I guess it’s just part of the learning process for us all as we hopefully evolve to be more God conscious people.
I was working most of today and then it came to my attention this evening that "BV Singh" had started up a SikhNet Discussion forum topic criticizing SikhNet and the image that we had of the Siri Guru Granth Sahib on SikhNet. I responded to the topic and then locked it because it was out of control and people just throwing harsh critical words.
From time to time people pop up on SikhNet and have some type of "self-righteous campaign" where they very rudely try get everyone’s attention by criticizing something, as if they are doing their duty to "Protect Sikh Dharma". Almost all the time in these situations their conscious/unconcious goal appears to be to seek attention. It’s as if their life is so unmeaningful and empty, that they need to create a drama to make them feel like they are doing something good/right. In these situations when someone is doing this I always hear about it after they have started their "campaign". If I had a problem with something with some website and felt strongly about it then I would diplomatically try to contact the site and start a dialog. But if the intention was to make peace and get some resolution then they of course wouldn’t go about things how they do criticising and ranting about what wrongs have been done.
I am very grateful to my parents, SSS Harbhajan Singh Khalsa Yogiji, and all those people who I grew up with who taught me so much. Probably the most important thing I learned and absorbed into my being is open-mindedness. Most of the people that I grew up with were from so many different cultural and religious backgrounds that you had to be accepting and open since people were learning and coming from so many different places. If we were all hyper-critical of each other then most would not have become Sikhs. Part of being a Sikh is acceptance of all and always being a learner. By judging others you close your mind and lose the opportunity to learn more. Even if I disagree with the way that someone does something I still respect that even though their way might not work for me, that it might work for them. That’s the beauty of this lifestyle is that there are so many paths and ways. The Sikh Guru’s gave us the base to live by, and the rest we figure out for ourselves in our own way. They gave us certain "tools" to help us along the way. Some people choose to use these tools and others do not. One cannot judge those who don’t, or think that they are better because they do. To me this is one of the biggest changes that I think needs to happen with the Sikh community. To shift from the "rules" mentality to a more open and accepting direction where everyone feels included and accepted no matter what their level of commitment. What happens these days is that people who might not follow the path in a specific way are pushed away. I hear about this all the time from youth and adults who cut their hair and are excluded and pushed away.
I remember the whole debate that went on in the sikhnet discussion forum and through emails to SikhNet when we first switched to the new SikhNet site/design. One of the header images had a Sikh man who’s hair was cut and beared trimmed (along with many other individuals who were wearing turbans). Some people protested and commented at how this person was not a Sikh and it sets a bad example. What they failed to realize is that this one person in the group of many in this image represents a significant number of people that are a part of the Sikh community. They may or may not have a regular practice with Sikhi, but it is not for us to judge them. We should make them feel welcome and share our love, so that they may get a deeper understanding and respect for the teachings that the Gurus left for us.
I guess what I am saying is that it is all a matter of perspective. Many times we see what we want to see, which isn’t necessarily the truth. We see things through our own frame of reference of how we were raised and taught. Particularly what we were taught was good or bad effects this picture. These situations are perfect learning experiences. When something like this comes into my head and I feel that judgement welling up….I watch my thoughts and open up and try to see a bigger picture. It really does help.
Ok…I think I have ranted a bit so will stop before this becomes a book. I was just thinking about all this and wanted to write it down. My only hope is that by sharing thoughts like these that others will open their minds and start to think differently. When you catch yourself thinking certain ways and you watch your thoughts as if you are looking at another person…then you are in good shape. When you can do this, then you can catch yourself before it comes out as an action or correct your thinking in realtime. That’s the first stage where you are concious of your thoughts and actions. The problems come when you unconciously do things.
To end I wanted to share with you a beautiful translation by Guruka Singh Khalsa of Guru Nanaks’s "Japji Sahib" which sums everything up perfectly. Part of the reason for reading these banis (prayers) every day is to remind us. If only we could all live these teachings every moment of our life. We have to start somewhere :)
JAPJI – Meditation of the Soul
You are the only Creator of this One Creation.
You are TRUTH,
The Doer of everything.
Image of the Infinite.
Unborn and Independent.
The Guru’s gift…
TRUE FOR ALL TIME,
TRUE AT THIS INSTANT,
By thinking and thinking
Though I may think a thousand times.
Deep in silence
Though the string of longing plays.
The hungry people stay hungry,
With the weight of the world on their backs.
You may be incredibly clever,
But you can’t take it Home with you.
How can I live the Truth?
How can I cut through the net of lies?
Walk in God’s Will
Within and without.
It’s written in your Soul. 1.
In God’s Will all structures are formed,
In God’s Will all Souls are formed,
And become great.
In God’s Will
We are high or low.
In God’s Will are pleasure and pain.
In God’s Will are loss and gain.
God’s Will is alive within us.
No one is without it.
When you understand God’s Will,
All thoughts of self depart. 2.